A quality management system is the processes that a company undertakes to ensure that it is producing goods and services that are of an acceptable quality. These systems are often cross-organizational, meaning that certain parts of different departments will work together as a whole to oversee an entire process. This wide range is generally due to the scope involved in most quality checks. Everything from the raw material supply to the machinery used to produce goods to the packaging all make up segments of a product’s final quality.
Quality management is a true 20th century concept. In the past, a single person or small group would create a finished product from start to finish. Since the buyer often knew the producers of the product, items of poor quality were generally not sold. With the takeoff of industrialized manufacturing, particularly involving interchangeable parts and assembly lines, quality became more of an issue. When a large group of people and machines create a good, the final product is a cumulative effort of all of their various jobs. If one person is not performing well, or using a substandard piece, the final good will be of poor quality.
Originally, a quality management system revolved around finished products and nothing else. At this time, the goods were checked to make sure there were no obvious defects or problems in the construction, and that was about it. Problems that arose after the goods were purchased were often attributed to the user rather than the product itself. While this mindset persisted for several years, more demanding consumers and increased competition gradually eroded this concept.
The first major change to the quality control system revolved around the long-term viability of the product. These ideas basically stated that a product needed to continue working as expected for a specific amount of time. If it failed before that, and there was no evidence of misuse, the product was considered faulty and the manufacturer was to blame. This idea was the precursor to the modern warranties common on most products today.
The second major innovation in the quality management system related to quality of service. Originally, these concepts only applied to goods and had nothing to do with customer interaction. As the quality management system matured, it began to apply to both marketing and direct interaction with customers, such as through tech support and sales. In these forms, a quality management system revolves around a workforce providing a basic level of competence, courtesy and truthfulness when interacting with customers.